Morning Consult Tech: FCC Plans to Move Forward With Rulemaking to Review Section 230

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  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement the commission will move forward with a rulemaking to “clarify ambiguities” in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, citing the “bipartisan support in Congress” for reform and noting that the agency has received clearance from the FCC’s general counsel to review the law. Pai added that social media companies do not have “a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.” (The Verge)
  • Twitter Inc. is changing its enforcement policy for content containing hacked materials, which will now prompt a warning label instead of removal unless the material is directly shared by people affiliated with the hack, after receiving backlash for making links to the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden inoperable on its site. The decision came the same day Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said the committee will vote next week on whether to subpoena Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to testify about the company’s policies. (Bloomberg)
  • YouTube joined Facebook Inc. and Twitter in cracking down on content from far-right conspiracy group QAnon, expanding its hate and harassment policies to ban content that “threatens or harrasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate.” YouTube’s policy is not an outright ban on the material, but it adds to the video platform’s string of enforcement actions against the conspiracy theory group’s content. (NBC News)
  • A group of state attorneys general, including those from Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and New York, are planning to announce that they will continue to pursue their own probe against Google but that they may opt to join the Justice Department’s possible antitrust suit at a later date, according to four people familiar with the matter. Although it’s not clear how many states are expected to sign the statement, the sources said some of the attorneys general are thinking of staying out of the federal suit for now because of their discomfort with how the Justice Department has run its investigation, while others are cautious because the upcoming elections could shake up the agency and delay any action against Google. (The Washington Post)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

U.S. Black Chambers and National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters’ virtual conference
Cato Institute’s virtual event on China’s new authoritarian ideology 12:00 pm
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
Cato Institute’s virtual event on information technology and military power 1:00 pm
NATOA webinar on digital inclusion and reaching the “unserved” and “underserved” 2:00 pm
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
6G Symposium – virtual
CNAS’s virtual fireside chat with Director of the Defense Digital Service Brett Goldstein 1:00 pm
Forbes’ 2020 MORE EQUITY Pitch Competition – virtual 1:00 pm
WSJ Tech Live – virtual
EmTech 2020 – virtual
CyberScoop’s CyberTalks 2020 – virtual
6G Symposium – virtual
Filecoin Liftoff Week – virtual
Aspen Tech Policy Hub COVID Challenge Grant Demo Day: Informing COVID Response & Communication through Tech 9:00 am
Cyberspace Solarium Commission Digital Event #11: Securing the U.S. High-Tech Supply Chain 12:00 pm
View full calendar

New Report: What Consumers Want Companies to Say and Do in a Year Like No Other

Driven by a dwindling economy, an unfolding pandemic, significant social unrest around racial injustice and an imminent election, 2020 has been defined by a quickly changing consumer environment.

Our new report, What Consumers Want Companies to Say and Do in a Year Like No Other, brings together our latest insights to help brands strike the right tone in messages and communications. Download the report.


Facebook Has Made Lots of New Rules This Year. It Doesn’t Always Enforce Them.
Jeff Horwitz, The Wall Street Journal

Facebook Inc. this year has made a flurry of new rules designed to improve the discourse on its platforms. When users report content that breaks those rules, a test by The Wall Street Journal found, the company often fails to enforce them.

Here are the top political donors from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Only one is backing Trump.
Issie Lapowsky, Protocol

Top executives at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have written more than 1,000 checks to political groups totaling more than $16 million this election cycle, with almost all of that money going to Democrats. Protocol partnered with the Center for Responsive Politics to study the top donors at all five companies to find out how much they’re giving and who they’re giving it to.

Lawmakers demand Amazon answer for deception on worker injuries
Will Evans, Reveal News

A trio of Democratic Congress members from Massachusetts is demanding that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos answer questions about the company’s deception around worker injuries and its failure to address high injury rates at its fulfillment centers.

Business Groups Urge Trump to Withdraw Order on Diversity Training
Khadeeja Safdar and Lauren Weber, The Wall Street Journal

More than 150 business and nonprofit groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are asking President Trump to withdraw his executive order that puts a limit on some diversity training. In a letter sent to the White House Thursday, the groups said that the order creates confusion, leads to unnecessary investigations and hinders employers from combating workplace discrimination.

Google launches new features to help locate nearest voting locations
Ayanti Bera and Elizabeth Culliford, Reuters

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it was introducing new features across its search engine, Maps and voice assistant to help voters in the United States find their nearest voting locations.

Amazon says third-party sellers made more than $3.5 billion from Prime Day
Annie Palmer, CNBC

Amazon said third-party sellers on its marketplace earned more than $3.5 billion during this year’s Prime Day shopping event, an increase of nearly 60% compared with last year and a record for the small and midsize businesses that make up the marketplace. The company, which didn’t disclose total Prime Day sales, said third-party sellers’ Prime Day sales grew even more than Amazon’s retail business.

White House Strategy Names 20 Emerging Technologies Crucial to National Security
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

The White House on Thursday rolled out a new strategy to obtain and retain global superiority in world-changing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, data science and space tech, among others. While the U.S. has been a technology leader for much of the last century, that supremacy is being challenged today.

FAA Revamps Space Launch Rules as SpaceX, Blue Origin Expand
Alan Levin, Bloomberg

Commercial rocket ventures including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin should get a clearer path to space under new regulations that oversee non-government launches. The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday announced it is replacing decades-old rules as it adapts to rapid growth in the industry to propel satellites and, eventually, private citizens into space.

Google nabs Energy Department cloud contract
Ben Geman, Axios

Google Cloud announced Thursday a five-year agreement with the Energy Department to provide the agency with access to a “broad range” of cloud technologies. Why it matters: The Energy Department has a vast research arm and needs highly sophisticated and powerful computing.

Startup founders set up hacker homes to recreate Silicon Valley synergy
Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch

In Y Combinator’s early days, founders would move to Palo Alto, split a two-bedroom with five others to save money and trade notes around the clock with their new, like-minded roommates. Now, as remote work continues and the pandemic persists, scores of entrepreneurs are working from home around the world.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

How to Stop Google Self-Preferencing? Europe May Not Be the Model
Adrianne Jeffries, The Markup

After a wide-ranging 16-month investigation, a congressional subcommittee examining dominance in the technology industry last week recommended more than two dozen updates to the U.S. antitrust system, including implementing nondiscrimination rules that would limit “preferential or discriminatory treatment” by dominant platforms. But such rules can be hard to enforce, experts said, and attempts by the European Union to spur competition with Google through measures of this sort have fallen short.

Bill Gates says that antitrust regulators should look at tech companies separately, not all at once
Jordan Novet, CNBC

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said it’s too bad that politicians are scrutinizing several large technology companies at once, because different markets the companies operate in have different problems. Gates dealt with government pressure as the CEO of Microsoft in the 1990s when the U.S. Justice Department mounted an antitrust case against the company.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

A financial lifeline for 5G spectrum
Aja Whitaker-Moore, Axios

A company that might be at the center of 5G’s future is being thrown a lifeline. Driving the news: Ligado Networks is raising $3.85 billion in expensive new financing to stay out of bankruptcy. The spectrum company’s survival could be crucial to the long sought-after, and sometimes controversial, dream of deploying a nationwide 5G network.

Verizon forced to pull ad that claimed firefighters need Verizon 5G
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

Verizon’s 2018 controversy over its throttling of a fire department’s “unlimited” data plan during a wildfire didn’t stop the carrier from rolling out numerous ads claiming that Verizon service is a must-have for firefighters and other emergency responders. But a couple of those ads apparently went too far, and Verizon agreed to stop running them after a complaint that T-Mobile lodged with the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

WeChat Judge Unlikely to Let Ban Go Forward Amid U.S. Appeal
Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg

A judge said she’s unlikely to allow the U.S. to implement prohibitions on WeChat while the government appeals her earlier ruling blocking them. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said at a hearing Thursday that she wasn’t inclined to grant the government’s request for a stay pending appeal.

The GOP starts forging a new alliance with QAnon
Tina Nguyen, Politico

The QAnon world is no longer simply a social media community trafficking in conspiracy theories. It’s increasingly a new constituency for the GOP — one that’s fired up like the rest of the MAGA movement, warring with tech giants and ready to battle through Election Day on behalf of a struggling president. 

Facebook is infuriating Republicans. So why isn’t that helping with Democrats?
Emily Birnbaum, Protocol

With Donald Trump behind in the polls and the Republicans’ hold on the Senate in doubt, Facebook has suddenly begun to cede ground on issues important to Democratic lawmakers. The company has banned political ads that might delegitimize election results, blocked the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon and, this week, limited the spread of a conspiratorial article about Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Influencer contracts are evolving to cover big risks like COVID-19 and governments banning TikTok
Chris Stokel-Walker, Business Insider Premium

Like everyone else, influencers are feeling the impact of the coronavirus on business. Contractual agreements underpin the huge numbers of influencer endorsements and brand deals brokered between companies and digital creators.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Twitter’s massive outage may be over, company says ‘no evidence’ of hack
Nick Statt, The Verge

Twitter has been experiencing an outage that began in the early evening on Thursday, with some users reporting problems sending tweets and refreshing their timelines starting shortly after 5:30PM ET. Just after 7PM ET, tweets began to cross our timelines, and things may be returning to normal.

Amazon Ring call center workers in Philippines ‘scared’ to go to work during pandemic
Olivia Solon and April Glaser, NBC News

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, call center workers in the Philippines who are contracters for Amazon’s Ring home security division have been required to report to the office. At first, employees said, they had no choice but to sleep at work so they could respond to the calls of Amazon Ring’s customers in American time zones.

Robinhood Estimates Hackers Infiltrated Almost 2,000 Accounts
Sophie Alexander, Bloomberg

Almost 2,000 Robinhood Markets accounts were compromised in a recent hacking spree that siphoned off customer funds, a sign that the attacks were more widespread than was previously known. A person with knowledge of an internal review, who asked not to be identified because the findings aren’t public, provided the estimated figure.

NSA aims to boost Black students’ access to security education, paid internships
Shannon Vavra, CyberScoop

The National Security Agency and the Department of Defense announced an initiative on Thursday meant to increase access to cybersecurity education, mentoring and paid internships for students at historically Black colleges and universities.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Unserved Communities Are Counting on the FCC
Rosa Mendoza, Morning Consult

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened many divides in communities in the United States. The list includes the digital divide – the gap between those who have access to high-speed internet and those who do not. This digital divide is pronounced in communities of color.

Twitter’s Partisan Censors
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Republicans are voting to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Friday to explain the company’s unprecedented speech blackout against a New York Post story that could embarrass the Joe Biden campaign. This is the right call on a serious issue, and we hope the Senators come prepared to persuade the American people, not grandstand.

Twitter Goofed It
Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

Yesterday morning, the New York Post published a bombastic and dubious report—widely criticized by journalists at other outlets—that included screenshots of emails allegedly copied from a hard drive that could possibly have belonged to Hunter Biden. There were numerous holes in the story’s reporting, and the outlet made no obvious attempt to confirm the veracity of the emails, which it said it learned about from the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Research Reports

States at risk: The cybersecurity imperative in uncertain times
Meredith Ward and Srini Subramanian, Deloitte and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers

During 2020, chief information security officers (CISOs) have risen to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, working closely with state IT departments to balance cybersecurity risks and business continuity. With most employees unexpectedly working from home for an indefinite period, CISOs secured networks for remote work by enabling or expanding multifactor authentication, enhancing system monitoring to receive early detection and alerts, and reviewing readiness plans to address the possibility of unexpected cybersecurity incidents.

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